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March 9, 2010 / beidson

Faithfulness Over Excellence: The Biblical Mandate for Ministry

Somewhere along the way local church ministry took a hard turn toward professionalism, and maybe one of the most prevalent signs of this is the extreme emphasis on excellence.  Not the excellence of Philippians 4:8, which speaks of moral goodness and beauty, but excellence in a technical sense, an excellence which makes us more marketable, not necessarily more biblical.

With modernism, many churches changed their strategies, whatever they were, to become more efficient, more productive.  Like excellence, though, this sort of efficiency tended toward man-centered growth models, not responsible stewardship.  In fact, excellence and efficiency are both good qualities and practices when used for good purposes.  But they are not points–they are subpoints.  They belong under faithfulness.

What we need to keep in mind most is that God has called us to be faithful in the work he has given us to do.  Technological relevance and cultural savvy are good, but they are not our driving force.  Or are they?  Ask yourself these questions: would you be more upset if you failed to pray with your child or if somebody thought your church wasn’t cool?  Would you be more disturbed by the faithlessness of many of the men in your church or by some irritating feedback from the pastor’s mic?  Would you be more embarrassed by facilities that weren’t state of the art or by your lack of prayerlessness?  Where is your heart?  Has “excellence” become more about technical precision to you than moral goodness?

If excellence is more about performance than character, you’ve got some major work to do on your life.  If excellence means having an attractive product over having an attractive heart, then you need to repent.  Excellent work is an overflow of a faithful heart.  Faithful people will do all things well because they are driven by a love for Christ, not a fear of failure.

We might find a lot more freedom in ministry if we lifted the burden of “excellence” off of our shoulders and began to do little things consistently well.  Now don’t misunderstand: nice brochures and a well rehearsed music set are very important–sloppiness in no way reflects the majesty of God.  But so often we are too easily driven by the cool factor and not nearly enough by the faithfulness factor.  So what if your building doesn’t have cool floors?  Who cares if your flyers have a misspelled word?  Does it really matter if you can’t teach like the guy everyone loves to hear?  But are you cleaning those floors and designing those flyers and engaging others in gospel conversations faithfully?

Jesus is better and more excellent than any of us.  He made excellent wine, right.  But was that the point?  No.  The miracle was the point–his divinity was the point.  He turned a small lunch basket into a brown bag picnic for thousands, and we can be sure the fish and bread were delicious.  But were they the point?  No.  The point was the provision.

Do small things well, and do them well consistently.  This will stick out more to the lost world than any brochure or brand ever could.


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